When things are going well, there is a beautiful human impulse to give back. Whatever the cause, the ability to act on this philanthropic impulse has become vastly more accessible since the advent of the internet. Yes, there are still those standing on New York City corners, clipboard in hand, asking for monthly donations to their causes. But much more common, and potentially more effective, are passionate individuals leveraging social media to reach out and gain support. This change has gotten more money directly to the cause faster than ever before, and that’s also changing how charities and donors interact.
“All I have to say is ALS ice bucket challenge,” said Ken Cerini, a 30-year veteran CPA who works primarily with non-profits at Cerini & Associates in Bohemia.
Unless you were living in a hole two summers ago, you know that the ice bucket challenge tore through social media and raised $115 million for ALS in just a few months. Where, in the past, fundraising efforts might rely on costly dinners or telemarketing campaigns, the ice bucket challenge cost the fundraising team virtually nothing. The message to donate or get dunked spread on Facebook and the dollars went straight to the cause.
This “pass through” model—money passing through an organization to get directly to the cause—is important to donors because they want to know that their dollars are being used effectively. That’s another way the internet has boosted non-profits and charities: because information is much more accessible, donors can learn about the organizations to which they’re giving and find out exactly how their dollars are being used.
“Donors are a lot more informed,” said Cerini. “and they’re looking for a social return on their investment. What’s the dividend? What’s the impact? It’s not about outputs; it’s about outcomes. There’s a shift in focus.” According to Cerini, this means the organization really needs to know what they’re doing and to keep an online story going. They have to show, through images and words, video and social media, how those funds are being used.